PARIS (AP) — Athletes who win Olympic and Paralympic medals at the Paris Games will be taking home a bit of the French capital’s most famous landmark.
Metal from beams and girders that have been swapped out of the iconic Eiffel Tower down the years has been stored, chopped up, polished and inserted in the heart of each of the nearly 5,100 medals that will be handed out at the Olympics from July 26-Aug. 11 and the Paralympics that follow.
The bold and revolutionary concept continues a run of fascinating and intricate medal designs used for the biggest show on earth.
Take the delayed Tokyo Games in 2021, when American 400-meter hurdler Sydney McLaughlin and others who got on the podium received medals molded from metal extracted from recycled consumer electronics over the previous two years. The nearly 80,000 tons of discarded devices that were collected included approximately 6.2 million used mobile phones as well as dismantled and melted-down digital cameras and laptops.
Medals handed out at Rio de Janeiro in 2016 were produced using recycled materials from things like leftover mirrors and X-ray plates.
When Russia’s Yelena Isinbayeva won gold in the pole vault at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, she was adorned with a medal containing jade — an ornamental rock — and inscribed with a dragon pattern, symbolizing nobility and virtue.
The reward of Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt for winning their numerous golds at the London Olympics in 2012 were medals which showed that games' official logo on a grid of lines. Or, as the organizers described it, “An architectural expression, a metaphor for the modern city."
After winning gold in the canoe sprint at Athens in 2004, Andreas Dittmer of Germany received a more traditional medal on the back of which was inscribed the opening lines of an ode by Greek poet Pindar composed in 460 BC to honor the victory of Alkimedon of Aegina in wrestling.
Steve Redgrave won gold medals in five straight games from 1984. At Seoul in 1988, the British rower won the coxless pair alongside Andy Holmes and they got a medal bearing the traditional goddess of victory, Nike, holding a palm in her left hand and a winner’s crown in her right — a design that had been used since the 1928 Games in Amsterdam. On the reverse was a dove, the symbol of peace, soaring up, holding a laurel branch in its mouth.
The medals at Atlanta in 1996 featured the same goddess on the front, and the official emblem of a “Quilt of Leaves” on the reverse.
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